The last time that (I know) someone read my work over my shoulder, they struck up conversation. This time, they did not.
Since the connecting train had not waited for the broken-down rail replacement bus service from Eastbourne to Lewes, I sat down in the waiting room; exchanged a few friendly words with others who’d been stuck on the bus – they were going to London, I was going to Paris; and worked on a presentation for a meeting at the International Council of Museums (ICOM).
No sooner had I settled into a seat on the train to London than the police appeared. I was momentarily confused. Had they been called because I had walked through an open barrier? Βecause my suitcase was jutting out into the aisle? It seemed a rather heavy-handed response, but rules are rules.
They wanted us to step off for a word. Could I leave my bag in my seat? No. Oh. (They were incredibly calm and friendly, especially considering the circumstances.)
They told me that a member of the public had become concerned and asked me what what I was doing. I don’t think it helped when I explained that I was going to an international meeting of museum workers,
police officers [civil servants] and UN staff.
Had I been invited or was I going out of personal interest? Invited. Could I show them the invitation? No. Is there a public listing of the event? No…
What had I been looking at? The title of the slide was “forensic evidence”, but I can see the member of the public’s point…
And I have a beard and everything.
The PC and I talked amiably about my work while the WPC got on with the nuts and bolts of confirming my identity. “Have you ever been in trouble with the police?” No. (At least, not the British police, and never for a bad reason.) I didn’t even think to point out that they could still have checked with the Met (Art and Antiques Squad).
Anyway, I showed them my staff cards for University College London (UCL) and the American University of Rome (AUR) and managed to find an event-related e-mail in my phone’s memory; they found me (and the blog); everything sorted itself out; and I wasn’t tasered or shot. They even got me to Haywards Heath in time for the next train (on which I opted to listen to music).
[Edited to add…]
Someone has pointed out that it isn’t funny when this happens repeatedly. I understand and agree. Once I’d stopped laughing, my response was to go to the barber and get my beard shaved off, which I should not have felt any need to do, and which others may not have been able to do (due to religious law).